Tunji Braithwaite (1933-2016): The Legend Lives On
Ajiroghene J. Oreh
So many things have happened this year, but at the first cycle of the ninety days of this year, I received a message from my lecturer, Mr. Moses E. Darah of the Languages and Linguistics Department, Delta State University, (DELSU). The subject matter of the text was the legendary lawyer, Dr. Tunji Braithwaite. What I saw after the lawyer’s name was unexpected and heartbreaking. That the revolutionary lawyer has passed on. I shed tears at my inner chamber, and cursed mr. Death for being a cruel friend of man. This has to be so because Nigeria has lost a great and an excellent man in Dr. Tunji Braithwaite whose towering profile was that of Service and Patriotism with every fiber of his very existence. A man who was committed to nation building, and who sacrificed a lot, and nearly lost his life in the process of restoring the dignity of Nigeria and Nigerians.
With the passing on of Dr. Tunji Braithwaite, Nigeria is now bereft, utterly dispossessed of one of its iconic legal scholars, who and other legal kindred spirits are credited with radical legal scholarships in the country. The radical and inimitable Professor Akin Oyebode is still much around at the prestigious University of Lagos (UNILAG) cordinating and spearheading radical legal scholarship, and Femi Falana, (SAN) on legal activism.
My first encounter with this late distinguished lawyer was sometime in 2010 when I was working as a litigation clerk at Amusi & Co., a law firm situated in the busy Ughelli, Delta State. I encountered him on the highly authoritative pages of the Federation Weekly Law Report (FWLR), one of the law report books, legal luminaries in this proverbial country uses to support their arguments in order to engender validation for their arguments. I was charmed by Dr. Tunji Braithwaites’s clarity of thoughts during legal exchange, and citing of apt legal authorities to buttress his argument. At the end of legal proceeding in Court, Dr. Tunji Braithwaite always won. That was Dr. Tunji Braithwaite for you, who was a bright and knowledgeable lawyer, and who knew the rudiments of the Law.
Another reason I admired this late legal mind was his sartorial elegance. He was known for his colourful ‘Aso oke’. This unique and particular style of outfit identified and associated him with the proletariat, the peasants, the masses, the wretched of the earth of Nigeria, who during his life and times here on our planet advocated for them. Dr. Braithwaite to us was a senior advocate of the masses (SAM).
Born in 1933, Dr. Braithwaite like his great legal ancestors and predecessors Barristers Vladimir Lenin of Russia, Fidel Castro of Cuba, Oliver Thambo and Nelson Mandela of South Africa was compassionate, radical, simple, polite, polished, humble, charitable, hospitable, optimistic. He was a monumental member of the radical and progressive movement in Nigeria. Brainwaite was a vibrant lawyer, an intransigent critic, an excellent columnist, a revolutionary thinker, a profound legal scholar, a consummate politician, a supreme editor, a peerless public intellectual, a multi-talented researcher, and an elegant author. He is the author of the famous book titled, Jurisprudence of the Living Oracle published in 1986.
The liberator, Dr. Tunji Braithwaite, a man with an intransigent attitude was committed to the struggle for the emacipation of Nigeria, and a fearless agitator who until he breathed his last at St. Nicholas Hospital, Lagos State agitated for an improved and better living condition for the teeming masses. To him, the cure of Nigeria is the system known as Confederation, and a confederate constitution to replace the military imposed constitution of 1999 as amended
Dr. Tunji Braithwaite was an embodiment of revolutionary, regenerative and progressives ideas. He was delegate at the 2014 National Conference organised by Dr. Goodluck Ebele “Azikiwe” Jonathan. At the historic conference, Dr. Braithwaite’s voice was golden like no other. He founded the Nigerian Advance Party (NAP) in the second republic. NAP was a political party that once boosted of some of Nigeria’s most revered public intellectuals like Professor Wole Soyinka of Ogun State. Again, through the platform, NAP, he contested for presidential elections.
Erudite Dr. Tunji Braithwaite’s death was unsalvageable lost to all. We will miss him for his bold and firm talks, revolutionary speeches, patrotism.
I wish Dr. Tunji Braithwaite was still alive, he would have join the vanguard to scorn the killing culture of the neo-nomadic, and berated our feudalistic president for his silence just like the way Prof. Wole Soyinka has done days ago. Though interred in Reverend Braithwaite Memorial Church, Papa Epe, on Thursday April 28, 2016, Dr. Tunji Braithwaite, the legend lives on.
Oreh, writes from the Delta State University, Abraka. He is an Essayist to Pengician.com
He is a gifted Pengician who command lines like no other.